Friday, December 24


There are a few differences between US and Spanish Holiday seasons:

1.      Holiday decorations in Spain go up on Halloween (in most places), while US the rule is after Thanksgiving.
Street in Malaga
2.       Santa doesn’t put gifts under the Christmas tree on Christmas in Spain. It is the Three Kings (Melichior, Vaspar and Balthasar) put them in either shoes or by the Nativity set (Belen) on the Day of Epiphany, which in January.
Balthasar in the Flesh and asking for Money.

3.       Candy canes and chocolate Santas are replaced by Pulvorones, Turrones and Jamon.
4.       Houses are not usually decorated with lights, they are usually restricted to all the streets. However, recently, pisos began buying Santa decorations where Santa is usually hanging from a balcony or parachuting in. I did see one such decoration, but with the Three Kings, which I really enjoyed.

Almunecar's Santas have problems traveling.
5.       Spanish work holiday parties are usually dinners that last from 3pm until 8, then there is a bar/disco afterwards for copas and dancing until 3 or 4am. Even though my last US holiday party at the Tap was pretty amazing (yay for brewery tours, open bar and Cossettas!), but this year’s was pretty fun.
The only foto I got that evening

That is all I can think of right now. And here are some details on some recent events here:

Spanish Baking MacGyver Style - Wine Bottles work better
Gingerbread making à I felt inspired after returning from my Puente travels and decided to make gingerbread houses with my students. Thanks to a video sent by a friend, I found this idea for mini houses. Therefore each student can try to construct their own houses. Thus, I enlisted the help of Roxann, a friend and fellow auxilar in Malaga, in making the 30 houses x (2 sides + 2 fronts + 2 roofs) = 90 cookies plus some extras. That afternoon, we began mixing the dough, making templates and cutting out the cookies. Some other professors came over to have dinner (curry!!! Yummy!!!) and make the gingerbread house my mom sent me. They then learned how to make gingerbread. It was my first time making the bread too, so I wasn’t much of a teacher.

About Half the Blurry Houses
After all that work, figuring out icing, decorations and how to explain it to the kiddies, it was go time! I had 33 houses with a couple extra cookies, icing doled out (despite having to run in the pouring rain sin umbrella to J’s piso to retrieve the forgotten icing in the fridge), and a vague plan. Overall, despite the chaos and insanity, it turned out well. The majority of kids were able to construct a house but eating was another problem. The cookies were a bit hard… but they said they liked them! The professors also liked the cookies, so much so to snack on them before I brought them to class. Which was my fault, I shouldn’t have left the box on the table! The next day, some students and professors (mainly me) ate the other fancy gingerbread house.
Trader Joe House
One of the Kiddies House

The Aftermath

Institute Holiday Dinner à Yummy food and fun company. Good way to explain it. Al-Andalus held a holiday dinner at a restaurant in the center. Consisted of three courses: shared first course of pate, stuffed peppers, (interesting) omelet, salad with avocados, cheese, mangos and yummy. For the second course, many people got the duck but I decided to go safe with pork in a port sauce (too bad I was soo full of wine and the first bit). Then finally I got a bright green, lemon cheese cake. One Spanish tradition I do enjoy greatly is a chupito of orujo after the dinner. Its free too usually! Then after eating, everyone went to Missisippi (that is how it is spelled outside, but inside they spell it right) and suffice to say, it was fun and I saw sides of people for the first time.  I want another Institute Dinner.

Holidays à Right as I am writing this, I am attempting to make lemon bars and snickerdoodles for a Christmas dinner on Saturday. Lemon bars will be interesting… but I hope the cookies turn out [EDIT: they didnt, they too are hard :( )!

This will be my first official Christmas season away from the family. They are all gathering in Milwaukee with the snow, while I am sitting here on a terrace listening to the surf pound the beach. Instead of snow (or sleet at times), I get lots of rain and 60s temps. It doesn’t feel like the holidays to me at all. Even though I have a stocking here full of presents (I still haven’t opened them! Now I did and my favorite: Sample size medical Blistex, hahahahha), holiday decorations,  am going to a Christmas dinner… it still just feels like any other day except I am baking.
No Snow Forcasted in my Holiday Season
What is she going to do?
What I am planning on doing is the following:
1.       Malaga on Friday (Nochebuena) and hopefully find a carnaceria open so that I can buy a ham to roast
2.       Christmas Day there will be a dinner at Spanish Times and then going out
3.       Madrid or Cordoba on Sunday or Monday
4.       La La La Fun Fun Fun TBA
5.       Linares for New Years Eve (noche vieja) and probably day.
6.       Exploring somewhere until the 10th when I start work again. 
And yes, my Grilled Cheese can beat yours. 

Monday, December 20


So blogging is harder that I thought- It is hard to get motivated to actually sit down, start writing about myself and THEN perhaps edit the post. This one will be a bit more edited becauce I have alot to say. So grab a snack, sit back and enjoy!

Since Spain is the country of holidays, I had about a week away from work to celebrate the Spanish Constitution and La Inmaculada Concepcion. Then I took Thursday off and traveled with Amy from Geneva, Switzerland up to Brussels. We started off visiting my Uni friend Steph and her family near Geneva, then go from there.

It was good thing that we didnt make any plans (i.e. book hostels, buy train tickets) because the Spanish airtraffic controllers decided to go on strike at 5pm on Friday. No one knew about this before it happened and if our plane hadnt gotten delayed because of the snow, we would have made it. We made it on the plane at 4pm, got our seats, I took a nap, then Madrid's air space closed, then Barcelona's, so the pilot tried to find an alternative route, couldn't in time and then everything closed. So Amy and I were delayed about 42 hours. On the bright side: we got to spend a night in a brand new 5 Star Hotel in Malaga, free dinner and then finally got a plane to Geneva at the crack of dawn on Sunday.

So we finally got to Geneva, had our first of many hot wine, ate fondue, ate more yummy food (Thanks Steph's fam!), saw some Xmas markets, saw Julius Caesar and some other stuff.

We also got to get "educated," or attempted to, at CERN. While we missed the tour since it was in the morning, we got to go through their exhibit and I taught the front desk man a new "Caitlin English" word.

THEN, on Tuesday (I think), we took the train to Strasbourg, France, stayed with an amazing couchsurfer, ate french food, the french ATM ate my US bank card and my Spanish bank card doesnt work outside of Spain, so thus no money. Pero, no pasa nada, Amy was kind enough to lend me some money until we got to Brussels and I picked up my wired money! But reminder all: Do not post Western Union numbers on facebook!

Nativity Scene in Strasbourg Catherdral
In Brussels we got to relax a bit: despite missing our first train to Brussels, we caught a later one and didnt have to pay for a new ticket! Yay! We arrived in Brussels Nord at 10:33pm, got to walk through the Red Light District (the ladies in the posters there wore HUGE underwear, like granny panties times 134), and made it to our hostel before they closed at 11pm! Success again! After a night of weird dreams, a 3am arrival, and so one, I got my free coffee and Amy and I headed to Brugge for our first sunny day in a while. I forgot my camera, so you will have to stalk her photos.

Brugge was wonderful: tasty onion soup, lots of beer, sunshine and medieval pretty buildings. We went on a Brewery tour of De Halve Maan. I highly recommend it if you are in the area! 5.50 euro gets you a drink, a nice tour of one of the oldest running breweries in Belgium, and an awesome view of the city (the tour guide was fun too!). You could pay 4 euro to go up to the other tower in the town for their view- but would have you laughs and beer? NO! So go!

Ok time to wrap this up: in Brussels, Amy and I stayed with another couchsurfer there. And despite my failing at phones, we were able to finally find him! That night we had a mini tour of the old town, saw the female version of the Mannikin Piss, went to a bar that had over 2000 beers (Heaven!), ate some traditional Brussels late night food, played on public art and then passed out after much talking. The next day was about the same (as in drinking beer and hot wine), except we went to a flea market, ate some Ethiopian food (yummmmmmy), and went to a Natural History Museum. At this site, it used to be a zoo in the late 1800s but the zoo went bankrupt and all the animals died. So now it is a museum full of stuffed animals and some dino bones! One weird thing about it, was that after all the school groups left, Amy and I were the only ones in it except for the gallery supervisors (they reminded me of you, Molly!).

Overall, despite some minor set backs, I really enjoyed my Puente vacation. Someday, I hope to live in Brussels- it reminded me about London, I like the food and I find Dutch hilarious and want to learn it! Someday! Now I must work on my Spanish grammar... eek.